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It has emerged that Pendle Bar is to be closed unless the college is holding an event, effectively leading to it ceasing to be a regularly functioning bar. The bar, which was renaed to Bar 74 at the start of the year and refurbished just two years ago, was expected to open once a week for the Pendle Live event run by the JCR. However, since this event may become fortnightly due to the pressure it puts on to the JCR, it is possible that Pendle Bar will open just once a fortnight. The move, which has been described as the bar “shutting in stealth” by one LUSU officer, will come as a bitter disappointment to many within the college as well as those who have expressed concerns over the future of the bars ever since they were taken over by the University’s Commercial Services department in 2008.
Jo Hardman, Head of Commercial Services at the University, confirmed: “At the end of last term, a meeting was held with all the JCRs and colleges, which discussed the continuing decrease in sales of drinks in the bars and the need to agree action to improve performance of each bar against a plan.” He stated that, in Pendle’s case, “it is clear that without activities such as bar sports or Pendle Live there is little trade: in February the nights that had no events took under £50 on average, whereas the nights that had events took a little over £200, which is still low.” Hardman suggested that although Pendle bar may be closed down for now, there will be an effort to “look how more activity can be generated for the rest of this term, and importantly how it can be re-launched in October”. Until then, Hardman tells SCAN that the bar will be open for darts on Wednesdays and Pendle Live.
Laurence Pullan, former president of Pendle College and LUSU Vice President (Union Development)-elect told SCAN that he was deeply concerned for the future of the bar. Whilst he agrees with the sentiment that if the bar is not sustainable it is difficult to keep it open and admitted that the bar “has always struggled to get good business” because it has not always received adequate support; he also stated “Like a flower, if you don’t water it, it will die”. Pullan emphasised that if the bar received more support and an attempt was made to invigorate its status amongst the other college bars, it had the potential to be “a profitable college space”. He feels that the closure of the college bar threatens the “outstanding student experience that this University prides itself on”.
Roger Gould, principal of Pendle College spoke to SCAN, saying that he had recently been on a trip away from the university and had come back to confusion. He told SCAN: “There seems to be conflicted messages. I’m not sure if the university are pulling the rug from under Pendle or if it’s a matter to do with the JCR”. Although Gould argued that the bar “does need to be used to justify it being there, students cannot use a bar that is closed [and so] being closed most nights of the week is bound to reduce use when the bar is actually open”. With regards to the concession that the bar will be open for college events, Gould stated his belief that the bar is not “an events bar”. He was however, quick to state that he was “not a believer in the gloomy view that the university is looking to close the bars”, but the closure of Pendle is sure to lead to questions about how the university supports the bars and how they plan to encourage students to use their college bars. Gould emphasised that although the bar will be closed, Pendle, as always, is more than just a bar. Pendle Rooms, the building which holds the bar, will still be an active social space available to all students.
Louise Davies, the University’s Retail Manager, concurred with Gould and Pullan, telling SCAN “it saddens me that students are not choosing to visit Pendle more regularly… we are working hard to provide the sort of products, services and ultimately the experiences that students want, but we know that doing so will require collaborative efforts”. She maintains that the college bars are an important part of the Lancaster University’s experience, and that whilst “students engage in so many activities and events – we would love to see them choosing Pendle, or indeed, any other bar as a place to hold them and we actively encourage it”.
The college bars were taken over by the Commercial Services department in 2008. Concerns were raised at the time that these could lead to undermining of the college system and potential closures. this was exacerbated by the changes to the bars’ management structure this academic year, which saw the bars lose individual licensees.